Race Report – Aviemore Half Marathon 2018

It’s been a few years since I last ran this race, but those of you who have been reading this blog for a while may remember that this one holds a special place in my heart, not just because it was the first ever half marathon I ran (back in the pre-blog days of 2009) but it was also where Steve and I got engaged – that was quite a way to relieve my pre-race nerves! Further to that, in 2012 I ran a PB here which proved stubbornly difficult to beat for quite some time – all the way to early 2017 in fact! But for the last few years I haven’t been up there as I had different autumn priorities, and when Steve signed up back in the summer I initially wasn’t sure if I wanted to run the half or the 10k, eventually deciding that it would be worth capitalising on the training I was doing for the Disneyland Paris half and “properly” running a half marathon to round off my racing year.

In the past we have stayed in Aviemore the night before the race, but this time decided we would get up early and head up first thing in the morning. This meant leaving between 6 and 6:30am, times which seem increasingly reasonable the more I run!

It was still pretty dark as we set off on the 80ish mile drive north into the Highlands which meant we didn’t get much chance to appreciate the beautiful scenery. We had the latest episode of Marathon Talk playing in the car and had a pretty easy drive, arriving at the race HQ just before 8am.

The race itself starts at 10am, however the logistics are such that runners are taken by bus to the start (only about 10-15 minutes away) and the course returns us to the MacDonald hotel complex which is used as the race HQ and car park. The buses begin at 8am and the last one is at 9am so we wanted to make sure we had plenty of time to collect our race numbers, go to the loo and get in line for a bus.

s6tVq4+ARuSFinP1VTwu%wWe were up at the start at the Badaguish outdoor centre not long after 9am. It was pretty chilly, but the organisers have a good set up with teas and coffees available (with donation buckets out for those who have cash at the start line) and a sheltered area to gather in. I had a cosy top on that I was going to put in Steve’s bag (we usually do this since he will finish first and can collect the bag before I finish) but had chosen one I was happy to throw away if I just couldn’t bear to remove it soon enough!

We had a cup of tea then got in the queue for the toilets around 9:30, so by the time we emerged it was time to hand in our bag. I was shivering a bit, but didn’t have too long to wait until I got underway and I knew I would be absolutely fine once I got moving.

DtHG+BLvRxaWOtnFMuJoZgAs runners line up there are markers with approximate times on them and I set myself up next to the “sub 2 hours” marker. Realistically I had no idea what I could do, but with a PB of 1:53 and previous long-standing PB (from this race) of 1:56 I was fairly certain I could squeak under 2 hours.

Before I knew it, we were being walked towards the start and past a piper. Steve took some photos as I couldn’t be bothered to pull my phone out and I was instructing him as to the photos to take!

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AFkyVosFSzuzu8JxGouiCAThere was a moment of confusion when we could see through a  break in the trees that the runners at the front had started and, of course, those further back started to run even though we hadn’t reached the start line yet. I never understand this. Surely we’re going to run enough during the race? And the confusion was created by the fact that so many people were running and I could hear lots of folk asking if we had crossed the start line yet, but since we had race chips on our shoes I knew that even though there was no gantry, the start line would be when we crossed a timing mat slightly further on so stayed calm and started my watch as I hit the mat.

The first half of the race, which is net downhill overall, takes place on trails which can be a little narrow at points and thanks to the recent rainy weather there were quite a few puddles. I knew from previous experience that it wasn’t worth worrying about pace in the first half of the race as the chances are you will be way off, particularly with a steep hill at the start of the 4th mile, but will make up lots of time once the course emerges onto the road as it’s pretty much all downhill through the second half of the race. I actually set my watch to show me the average pace rather than the current pace and amused myself with some “runner maths” to try and work out if I was on track for a sub-2.

fullsizeoutput_28faA fun moment came towards the end of the trail section as I became aware of runners backed up around a corner. It turned out that there was a puddle of such magnitude that there was absolutely no avoiding it and people were looking for the best way to approach it. Most were going around the edges (which were pretty squelchy) as there was clearly a deeper hole in one part of it and lots of people were falling down. Not wanting to hurt myself by stepping on something uneven that I couldn’t see (or have an impromptu ice bath), I also went around the outside, but still ended up in cold water up to my knees and with icy cold feet – a good incentive to run faster in the second half to warm up again!

Thanks to my choice of attire I was getting lots of shouts (everything I was wearing was actual running kit, I just thought I would have a bit of fun and embrace the feline theme of running for a cat charity!). Early in the race as we had a brief section on a road I heard a little girl say, “she’s dressed up as a cat!” and as we ran by Loch Morlich shortly before joining the road for the home stretch a spectator shouted, “well done pussy cat!” Most of the marshals also commented on my cat ears and gave me a big smile. It was really nice, if a little unusual!

Once out on the road around 7 miles in it was time to get myself moving a bit faster. My average pace had been showing about 9:27 and I knew that 9:09 would be 2 hour pace. With the slight downhill it felt easy to push on and although it crossed my mind to wonder if I could sustain a faster pace, I dismissed the thought and focused on running to feel. I was passing people and feeling good. I even managed to take my gels (I had one on the trail at mile 5 and planned a second at mile 10 with “a parkrun to go”) without choking myself!

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Splits from the trail section

I was noticing my average pace falling until it dipped under the 9:09 I was looking for and at that point I knew I could keep my legs turning over all the way to the end. An interesting thing about this race is that the mile markers are actually “miles to go” so they are counting you down to the finish. I had noticed in the second half of the race that the markers were a bit off compared to my Garmin and suspected the route was going to come up a little short. Thanks to my knowledge of the route, I decided to trust the markers and keep on pushing as my pace felt ok.

There’s a short, sharp hill to take us from the path we are on up onto the main road and back into the hotel complex, and as I came off the hill I glanced at my watch to see that it read 1:55. I knew my previous best time from this race was 1:56 something, but couldn’t remember what the seconds were. I tried my best to speed up as the finish line was in sight but the last 100m or so are over grass which was a bit soft and uneven so I couldn’t get quite the sprint finish I wanted.

I heard the announcer call my name as I crossed the line and headed through the chute to collect my water, shortbread (such a Scottish race haha!) and medal then return my chip.

NpnukYlNToyy7NRYe2SBdQI met Steve and we headed back inside to sort ourselves out and I took advantage of the opportunity to look up my previous time (1:56:35) and confirm that I had indeed beaten it. My chip time for this year was posted as 1:56:02. Those 2 seconds are a little irritating, but given I had only expected a squeak under 2 hours (and there were some slight holdups on the trail) I’ll take that. This now becomes my 2nd fastest half marathon time and only the 3rd time I have run sub-2. Pretty pleasing for someone who was certain she wasn’t in fantastic form! I suspect the lack of pressure or expectation meant that I ran well, felt comfortable and enjoyed the event. I felt really strong in the second half and looking at my splits that strength is confirmed so I definitely got my strategy right.

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Splits from the road section – definitely a negative split!

UntitledAnd so this remains one of my favourite races. It’s well organised, has a fun route and is very friendly. There are always people there that I know and the sections where there are spectators always have great support. It’s nice to run a race with a more local feel to it. I’ll try not to leave it another 5 years before I go back!

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4wGXTmvsReqkWr+0x7yOkAYou can read about my previous experiences of this race here and here.

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Week In Review – Always Have a Plan B…!

The first week of my October break presented an opportunity to press reset and get caught up on a few things. Yes, it would have been nice to go away somewhere, but on this occasion it was good to be at home. With a half marathon to run at the weekend, I took the chance to mix up a bit of training with some decent rest:

Monday – rest
Tuesday – 5 miles
Wednesday – rest
Thursday – 4 miles + Ashtanga yoga
Friday – PT session with Steve
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – half marathon

Start as you mean to go on, I say. I don’t generally like to sleep in (although obviously don’t set my alarm for as early as a school day!) but it is good to have a lazy start to the day and I decided I wanted to spend the first week of my holiday getting back into a habit I had back during my Easter break. So when I awoke I headed for the kitchen to make a cup of tea which I took right back to bed to read for about an hour. The kittens quite liked this and after running around daft for a bit they settled down at my feet for a snooze. Bliss!

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Nothing better than a long lie with Gary!

I then spent some time on the afternoon on my “homework”. I’m studying this with my Advanced Higher class and felt in need of a re-watch of my favourite adaptation of my favourite novel. Such a hardship lol!

fullsizeoutput_28ccOn Tuesday I followed my tea and book in bed with a run – not totally lazy! I set myself up with a kind of “mini taper” into my race so headed out for 5 miles. It was nice to get out in daylight after early morning runs last week, and the weather wasn’t too bad either.

RAHqgPkQRIGW3ynzZZhW5AWhen I arrived home I could spy a red package through the glass and knew exactly what it would be – my annual subscription to the London marathon rejection magazine. At least the running jacket I got with it is pretty good.

zTGJBzEOSzWboebQdiEYVwGiven the numbers in the ballot I didn’t expect to get a place, but until that magazine arrives there is always a glimmer of hope that this might be the year. Still, with 7 rejections (and counting…) I know to have a Plan B in mind for what I’ll do when that inevitable “nope” arrives, and for 2019 I knew my Plan B would be to sign up for the Stirling marathon again. I really enjoyed it this year and liked how conveniently close to home it was, so by the time the day was done, this had happened:

fullsizeoutput_28cfWednesday was another rest day. I had a few errands in town so clocked up loads of steps walking there and back (after some time spent reading with my cup of tea, of course!). At least my mail was more pleasing as I got some new casual leggings – and got photobombed by the kittens when I tried to take a picture!

fullsizeoutput_28f8On Thursday I doubled up – run in the morning and Ashtanga yoga class in the evening. My self-styled “mini taper” called for a 4 mile run and this time it was even pleasant enough to break my shorts back out of hibernation. I do love it when I can still wear my shorts without freezing to death!

IMG_9861Yoga was, as always, great. I had been curious to see how I would get on with the headstand after my breakthrough last week – was it a one-off or could I actually manage the posture by myself? As it turned out, there was no need to be concerned as I once more moved into the headstand on my own. I didn’t hold it for as long, probably because  I rushed to straighten my legs out before I had my balance feeling as secure as last time, but now I know it wasn’t a fluke I’ll take more care to move into the posture more mindfully as I go forward.

Steve offered me a training session on Friday morning (at a time which still allowed me my “soft start” to the day with my book and tea!) so I headed over to the studio. I was reluctant to do anything that would make my legs feel heavy on the Sunday, so we used the TRX and Core Momentum Trainer to do some work on my arms and upper body instead. Somehow I neglected to take a picture during the session, but did manage to take a photo of the coffee I had afterwards. Not sure what that says about me haha!

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The new “cordusio”. I think I ordered it because I thought it was a funny word!

The rest of the day was about as busy as things get during school holidays. First I had my flu jab (definitely want to avoid getting the flu!) and then I had my nails done which meant a good chat with my friend who does my nails.

Saturday, as ever, began with parkrun. I’m not always good at taking it easy when it’s not pacer day, but I was determined not to overdo things and risk having weary legs for the following day. I started out at a fairly steady pace and allowed myself to push on a bit as the run went on (securing a nice Royal Flush Negative Split) but still coming in at a slower (for me) time of 25:44. I had thought averaging 8:20-8:30 pace overall would be ideal so that was perfect.

IMG_9884Steve’s brother was away on holiday, but the Steve and I still went for a post-run bacon croissant before getting the food shopping done (such Saturday glamour!).

5xGLC%9CReanCYiH2wKjugI actually felt a bit “off”, kind of like I was going to get a headache but without actually having a headache. Not sure if that makes any sense, but I could feel my body telling me to have a nap so once home I had some soup then settled down for a nap. I did feel a bit better after that, but decided to take it easy and spend the afternoon watching a film. Time to break out Beauty and the Beast, because sometimes only a Disney film will do.

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As the evening wore on I began to realise that the reason I felt “off” was because my upper back and shoulders were tight and this was travelling up my neck and into my head. I got Steve to work on it a bit and began to feel a lot better. Good thing too since we were getting up early for our race!

We had decided not to stay in Aviemore the night before, and instead get up early to make the journey north into the Highlands – only about an hour and a half away and the roads are pretty clear at that time of day. We were away before 6:30am and got into Aviemore just before 8. I’ll write a separate post with all the details of the race, but it was all pretty familiar even though I hadn’t been up there since 2013.

This was my last serious race of the year. Anything else from this point will be more in the “fun run” category, so I also made it the last hurrah for my fundraising efforts. I teamed my Cats Protection running vest with paw print leggings (actual running leggings) and a hairband with ears (an actual running headband). It got me a fair amount of shouts and made a few people smile along the route!

DrgrJJvKTpCFm6VK7VXaegPost-race we tidied ourselves up a bit and on the way home called in to see a lovely couple Steve trains. They are in their 70s and so fit! I had never met them before but they had insisted we call in on our way home for a cup of tea, and despite being “race fresh” they were perfectly happy to sit and chat over some refreshments for a while and were so kind, waving away my apologies for not being at my most presentable! It was a nice way to break up the journey home and the cups of tea and choccy biccies were definitely appreciated!

The remainder of the day was pretty chilled and I headed to bed feeling really tired from the combination of an early start, racing a half marathon and having the long-ish car journeys as well.

When was the last time you needed to call on Plan B?
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Week In Review – Up And Running

After a pretty lazy week training-wise (not sorry – it was EXACTLY what I needed!) last week it was time to get back in to some more “normal” training again. It’s a real eye-opener about what I consider normal now when rearranging things in my week to make sure I can get a run in counts! Here’s how things looked:

Monday – Hatha yoga
Tuesday – 4 miles
Wednesday – rest
Thursday – 4 miles + Ashtanga yoga
Friday – rest
Saturday – parkrun pacing
Sunday – 10 miles

I tried to really savour my Monday yoga class as I knew it would be the last for three weeks.  Since this was the last week of term I was feeling pretty tired and although I’ll miss having the class during the school holidays and first day back, I know I’ll be able to do some home practice in its place. I felt really relaxed at the end of the class and ready for the rest of my week.

Another thing I was quite keen to do was fit in a little more running this week since I have another half marathon coming up mid-October. I was also really determined to make it to my Wednesday orchestra rehearsal, so decided that a little bit of re-arranging was in order to make sure I could manage both without having to cut my run short, arrive at rehearsal late or feel really flustered. The obvious solution was to have another go at the pre-work running I tried back in June. Back then it wasn’t too bad as the mornings were light and with the heatwave (such a distant memory now!) it was far more pleasant to run in the cool morning air. At the time I enjoyed it but wasn’t sure if it was sustainable for me on darker mornings. Time to find out. So I laid out some kit, set my alarm and did it – without any prior announcement to Steve or anyone else to keep me accountable! I was out the door by 5:30am (!!!) and although I felt a little sluggish on this run, I wasn’t too bothered and enjoyed an active start to my day. I actually felt pretty good for the remainder of the day afterwards as well.

f%9uXt%dTwWXicTm9NZ0RwThis meant that I had no pressure to get a workout done on Wednesday and so didn’t have to rush away from work. Instead I got a few bits and pieces done, did a little yoga before my dinner and was ready for my sister to pick me up for the rehearsal. She was feeling pretty tired and needed to go home when we took our rehearsal break, but we probably only missed about half an hour so that was ok with me and meant I got to bed nice and early.

I was pleased with the early night as I had planned a SECOND early run. Clearly it can’t have been too bad on the Tuesday! I was out the door about 5:30am again and ran pretty much the same route but this time I wasn’t feeling so sluggish and with the same effort level covered the distance faster. This was very pleasing.

YBOlAJdRQR6gNIP5Ue3IKAI’m not sure if it was the run, the routine or the fact that the holidays were nearly upon me, but I felt great in my Ashtanga class that evening. I was moving well with my breath, felt strong in Wheel and – drumroll please – managed my very first totally unsupported headstand! If you read these weekly reviews regularly then you may be aware that this is something I have been working on during this year. I’ve been doing headstands with my teacher there to support me, but recently have noticed her starting to try and give a little less support. Perhaps that gave me some confidence, but since she was supporting someone else first, I decided to see if I could take my feet off the ground and find balance with my legs still bent. I expected that would be all I would manage, but felt so good that I thought I would try and straighten my legs after a few breaths to see what would happen…and I held it! I had to work hard not to get so excited about it that I lost the position, but as I moved into child’s pose afterwards I was grinning from ear to ear. I did it! Hopefully that will now give me the confidence to keep working on the posture independently because I will always know that I managed it, therefore I can manage it again. I was so pleased!

Friday was the last day of term and I stayed after work to finish up some marking. After a busy week I took it as a rest day and enjoyed a relaxing evening to start my holidays.

When I got up on Saturday morning it was cold. Thin layer of frost on the windscreen cold. Base layer and gloves cold. Steve had an early client then returned home to change and pick me up for parkrun where as well as being International Parkrun Day, we were having our monthly pacer week.

IMG_9809I had 28 minutes again and after coming in slightly after the time last month, I was keen to do better this time. I settled into pace and soon realised I had some parkrunners with me who were hoping to break 28. I offered advice, tips and “encouragement” which saw them over the line with great new PBs and I was so happy to have been able to help them. I finished in 27:45 – a little faster than the goal but this was mainly because I settled into pace beside the runners I was helping and that’s fine. They were all really pleased and I got a nice message that evening from one of them to say thank you. Definitely my favourite volunteer role as I still get a run but also get to help other people to run their best.

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Photo by Roy Mitchell for Perth parkrun facebook page

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IMG_9796Post-run I was able to join Steve and his brother for a bacon croissant for the first time in ages. Saturdays have clearly been very busy for most of the first term so it was good to get back into my previous routine of post-run breakfast, food shopping and a relaxing afternoon.

T3DUSvIDR8mp5QBxLt98tgThe evening was spent in front of the TV as it was movie week on Strictly and I had some furry company too.

kM3u3edgQOmjh47FzSe28wOn Sunday I knew I needed a longer run as my half marathon was just a week away. My last longer run was the Disneyland Paris half, but I was in no hurry then and had lots of photo stops so my most consistent long run before that was a 10 miler about a fortnight before. I decided it had best be a 10 mile run and got myself ready at a fairly leisurely pace. The weather was cool, but not cold like the day before so no gloves were necessary and I enjoyed catching up on the Marathon Talk podcast as I ran. Even more pleasing, I completed the route a bit faster than the last time so am feeling good ahead of next weekend. I don’t think I’m in PB shape, but I’m still curious to see where my fitness lies right now after losing a bit of momentum over the summer when my ankle was bothering me (it’s fine now – total mystery!).

IMG_9836I actually spent the rest of Sunday in a fairly lazy fashion (read: I hardly moved!) as I watched coverage of the Chicago marathon. Did you see it? Such a great race for Mo Farah! I even got lots more kitten cuddles as I lazed about – I could get used to this!

V3WXPwa7TlexLbi929WtbwHow do you make sure you can fit everything in?
Are you working on any yoga postures right now?

Friday Finds – 5th October

Friday Finds is a regular feature in which I collate and share interesting articles and posts on running/health/fitness which I’ve read recently. Some might be inspiring, some might be scientific, some might provoke debate. All are things I’ve found in some way thought-provoking.

Phew! This is one of those Fridays that feels like it’s been a long time coming around. After 8 weeks of school term, it’s time for a break here in Scotland and I’m looking forward to a chance to rest, relax and recharge. To start us off, here are some articles that caught my eye this week.

For the parkrun fan, this weekend is an exciting one as parkrun celebrates its 14th birthday. That’s right, tomorrow is International Parkrun Day. Not only that, but last week the 5,000,000th person registered for their parkrun barcode. That’s incredible! Here’s the always excellent Sean Ingle with a roundup of how parkrun has grown and developed over the past 14 years.

It’s also that time of year when everyone (and I’m including myself in this) goes a bit marathon mad – the results of the London marathon ballot are due to drop onto doorsteps in the next week and this weekend sees the next of the Marathon Majors take place in Chicago. With marathon fever tightening its grip, my attention was caught by these musings on the distance. I’d love to know your thoughts.

Speaking of Chicago, the elite field is looking exciting with appearances from Mo Farah, Gwen Jorgensen and “Citizen Runner” Yuki Kawauchi. Fans of the Marathon Talk podcast have been familiar with Yuki for some time and he became better known as a result of his Boston win earlier this year. With that in mind, you may enjoy this piece exploring Japan’s most well-known marathoner.

Following some high profile reports of cheats in marathons (most notably in Mexico City) race organisers in China are finding new ways to crack down on cheats. Having used facial recognition software in a half marathon last year, the software is now to be used in a marathon early next month. Good to prevent cheating or another layer of potential complication for runners? What are your thoughts?

And finally, I love those “expectation v reality” memes that pop up from time to time so this article appealed to me. It’s another classic from Canadian Running which has gathered together a variety of stock images related to running and compared them to the reality. I think my favourite is the one about winter running!

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

The Year of Me!!! – September Update

September! 9 months of the year done and my Big Birthday has gone by. I should probably stop celebrating it some time soon! 😂 Time to check in with my goals for the year and see how things are progressing.

1.Run 1000km (621 miles)
Goal achieved! I’ve been aware for some time that I would reach my goal distance before the end of the year (assuming no significant time out) and my final run of September took me just beyond the distance. I’m pleased to have achieved this with so much time to spare, but that time gives me the opportunity to now find out how much more I can add to the total. Place your bets…!

2.Commit to a minimum of 5 minutes of yoga on at least 5 days of the week
I started the month spot on with this one, but with my trip away I managed to miss a couple of home sessions in the weeks wither side, which I’m not terribly proud of. What I’m finding with my current routine is that 4 sessions of yoga is easily achievable but sometimes the 5th eludes me – more out of laziness/carelessness than anything else. I have been trying to combat that with a short routine before bed to help me relax and unwind so hopefully things are back on track again.

3.Read at least 30 books
Another goal achieved! At the end of the month I reached 30 books and was rather stunned to find that I had managed to read so much this year. With 3 months of the year to go (and some holiday time) I wonder what my final total will be? I’ve been really enjoying my reading this year and part of that is because my involvement with some online/social media book groups has given me the opportunity to read things I might not otherwise have chosen and kept me on track with my reading in order to contribute to the discussions.

4.Be in bed by 10pm at least 3 times per week
I think I’m still doing ok with this one. I certainly tried to be in bed at a reasonable time before my trip and needed plenty of sleep the week after so although I don’t keep specific note of this one, I do keep an eye on the time on “school nights” and try to be heading for bed before 10.

5.Watch at least one Ted/Ted X talk per week
I had fallen off the wagon with this one over the summer but am back on track now. I’m taking part in a 100 day challenge with a Facebook group I’m in and my choice was to watch a TED talk every day for 100 days. This has really helped to get my focus back on this goal – an activity I have really enjoyed – and I am doing well so far. I did miss a couple of days when I was in Disney, but have since “caught up” by watching a couple of extras so I am still on track for 100 talks in 100 days. Any recommendations?

6.Listen to at least 8 podcast episodes per week
On the basis that I listen to a podcast per day on my drive home (and usually one or two extras across the week) this one is still going well. I have fallen slightly behind with my regular podcasts again with my extra rest days, but I’m sure I’ll catch up during the school holidays as I’ll have more opportunities to listen.

7.Respond to at least one WordPress prompt per month
My most last-minute one yet as I responded to the prompt It Builds Character on the last day of the month!

8.Be more mindful in my phone/social media use
The rigours of the school day mean I’m back on track with this one too as my time to even touch my phone during the day is so limited. Beyond a quick check of emails at lunchtime, I don’t really use my phone much at all. I’ve also got back into the habit of checking it when I get home then getting on with other things for the evening so I don’t get sucked in. Social media etc definitely have a positive place in my life, but it’s too easy to be distracted by the more frivolous elements so a balance has to be found.

This first term of the school year has been busy (I know they’re all busy but it has felt busier than this term usually does) so I’m really pleased with how I have approached my goals this month. Roll on October!

How are you doing with your goals for the year? Anything achieved? Any goals need reset?

Week In Review – Remembering the Magic

To be honest, I’m not sure how to follow last week’s review! I didn’t really do much at all as the packed weekend away during term time left me quite tired so I opted to take the week off from training (except yoga) and get some rest to make sure I didn’t overdo things. I did, however, spend most of the week floating along in a post-Disney bubble. Turns out there’s nothing quite like a weekend of fairy dust and Mickey Magic to lift the spirits!

rybjuRqVSKeF5pb8N6EeFAAs a result, I suspect this post will be quite short:

Monday – Hatha yoga
Tuesday – rest
Wednesday – rest
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – rest
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – rest

Yup, lots of rest. Both of my yoga classes were exactly what I needed but on the other evenings I didn’t do much at all other than gradually unpack/get the post-trip laundry done, watch some tv and read a bit. I didn’t go to orchestra again on Wednesday as I wanted to have a restful evening and was just too tired for that level of concentration.

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Good job I had an expert to help me rest!

There was some mid-week excitement when I secured tickets to see Take That on tour next year. April seems so far away but I’ll no doubt have a spring marathon to train for which will make the time pass incredibly quickly!

fullsizeoutput_27b4By the weekend I was feeling restored and glad I took the time off (realistically I didn’t need recovery time from the running, just the chance to catch up on my sleep!). Good thing too since I had quite a lot of plans and didn’t want to feel exhausted.

The Women of the World festival returned to Perth for the second year. I had intended to buy a weekend pass but held off since I wasn’t sure how I would feel the week after being away. Then a couple of weeks before the festival my sister won passes so gave one of them to me. That meant I could go along to the sessions I wanted without worrying about having to “get my money’s worth”.

This year, one of the festival activities was to go along to parkrun so that suited me just fine. To avoid having to worry about parking my car all day, I ran into town (Steve had left earlier for a client but had my bag with a change of clothes in his car) and met the group heading over to the run.

fullsizeoutput_27b9It was great to be back at parkrun and I felt I ran fairly well given I hadn’t run all week and had felt pretty tired and sluggish.

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Steve suggested a “Disney Special” jump 😂

After the run I grabbed my bag from Steve and walked back to the theatre (the festival venue) to get changed and have some breakfast before the first session I wanted to go to.

DMxWljRQSpiVWtLMCFC01gI went to several interesting sessions during the day then Steve picked me up to head home to eat and chill at home for the evening.

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This looked like fun!

4jYqJ+9dSrSMgLGqtlu8MgThe first Sunday session was at 10:30am so rather than squeeze in a super short run and/or get up really early, I opted to take another day off training and take my time getting ready (although I did walk into town to get some movement).

DNud5pD+TuqiSF7kTfTRBgThere were some further interesting and thought-provoking sessions during Sunday then when the festival finished in the afternoon Steve came to meet me to get the food shopping sorted. Oh the glamour!

So overall not the most exciting or active of weeks, but it was what I needed it to be and gave me time to reflect on my Disney experience. The school holidays are coming up so I’ll be able to write my race report in the next week or so. Promise!

Have you ever attended a WoW festival?
What are your priorities right now?

Friday Finds – 28th September

Friday Finds is a regular feature in which I collate and share interesting articles and posts on running/health/fitness which I’ve read recently. Some might be inspiring, some might be scientific, some might provoke debate. All are things I’ve found in some way thought-provoking.

Hello Friday! I must admit, I’ve spent this week floating along in a bit of a bubble after my amazing weekend away and nothing I have planned for this weekend can ever be quite as exciting. Whatever you’re up to, here are some interesting bits and pieces to dip into.

First, I’ll touch briefly once more on Eliud Kipchoge and the new marathon world record. Now that a new record has been set, attention inevitably returned to the idea of the sub-2 hour marathon and one of my favourite columnists, Alex Hutchinson, spoke to physiologist Michael Joyner and compiled his thoughts on this for Outside.

Also from Hutchinson, this time writing in The Globe and Mail, the fascinating results of studies into identical twins which show that while our genes matter in terms of what we might achieve, what we do with those genes is also important. Basically both nature AND nurture matter. Always an intriguing topic.

Related to this is this response by evolutionary biologist Rowan Hooper to a short story called Lions and Gazelles (which sounds intriguing). This response considers various aspects of sporting performance and how science might help to enhance it. There are certainly times when I wouldn’t mind a boost to my motivation!

Another interesting study I came across, reported by Canadian Running magazine, caught my attention as it concerned smartphones. One of my goals for this year was to think more carefully about my use of my phone and social media, with the intention of being a little more mindful in using them and not getting caught up in the time-suck of infinite scrolling. My sense that it wasn’t that good to use my devices too much is supported by results showing that those making more use of smartphones exhibited fewer approach behaviours e.g. smiling. What does this have to do with running? Well next time you acknowledge another runner only to be ignored, perhaps overuse of a smartphone is partly to blame.

And finally, running is one of those topics that elicits (often unsolicited) advice from a wide range of people. Sometimes that advice is good, but often it is terrible. Here, Canadian Running has rounded up some of the best examples of poor advice to runners, some of which sound insane! What’s the worst running advice you’ve ever been given?

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Week In Review – The Magic Of Disney

What a week! I can’t believe my magical weekend finally came around and there will be a post on the Disney race itself to follow as soon as I have some time to sit down and think about it properly. In the meantime, here’s my regular week in review post with how I spent my week as a whole (fair warning: there are LOADS of photos here!).

Monday – Hatha yoga
Tuesday – run + sports massage
Wednesday – rest
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – travel
Saturday – Disneyland!!!
Sunday – half marathon

My main priority throughout the week was to be as rested as possible as I knew the weekend would be tiring. This meant cutting back some of my workouts and making a point of maximising sleep by getting to bed at a reasonable time and cutting out anything unnecessary in the morning so I could sleep a little later. I also made sure to include some yoga each day to help me unwind, starting with my usual Hatha class on Monday night. As ever, the perfect end to my busy Monday.

I had already decided to move my midweek run to Tuesday so I could have Wednesday completely free to pack. As it turned out, this was most fortuitous as Storm Ali paid us a visit on Wednesday and running would have been pretty challenging. It was actually quite windy on Tuesday, but I was only looking to run at an easy pace and this was perfectly achievable. I followed this up with a sports massage to make sure my legs were in tip top shape for a weekend of theme parks and running.

gP8GtmpQRrOQVgblNat%9wAs well as a rest from any training, I also skipped my orchestra rehearsal on Wednesday so I had the night free to get myself packed and organised for the weekend. This made me feel much better as I knew I had little time the following evening and had to leave straight from work on Friday.

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My packing “helper”. Mum was on kitten care duties over the weekend so they were spoiled rotten!

It was then really important to me to get to my Ashtanga class on Thursday after missing it the previous week. I wanted the chance to calm my mind and stretch my body before the busy weekend. Unfortunately, due to some heavy traffic I was a few minutes late and this affected how I felt as I joined in with the class. Still, it was much better than not getting there at all and I did feel a lot more chilled by the time the class finished. I then went straight off to get my nails done to match my running costume.

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Can you guess…?

And then it was Friday. A colleague of mine very kindly offered to take the last few minutes of my class at the end of the day so I could get changed and get out of the car park ahead of all the school buses and parental pickups. This put us at the airport in good time for our flight and we got some food while we waited in the departure lounge.

EaU0qkeiR7qPQgjNOvQ61gThings began to unravel a bit when our flight was delayed (without much by way of explanation) for a little over an hour. By the time we moved an hour forward to Paris time, this meant it was getting quite late. We had always known we would be too late for any of the trains or coach transfers to Disney, so had booked a shared taxi but with the delays we ended up missing our slot and it took some time to get things reorganised – not helped by that laid back French attitude towards such things! By the time we got to our hotel it was 1am local time and had been a looooooooong day! We were booked into the Cheyenne which had a wild west/Toy Story theme and our room was ideal for our needs.

XAr8Es4bQ%+aMqQpANDUOg
+poMDiMqRc6QoaVNe3AvvwWe were up sharp on Saturday morning as we had loads we wanted/needed to do. But first, breakfast. The buffet in our hotel was pretty good with a selection of hot and cold items. But the best bit was while we were eating there was an announcement that Disneyland was open! I think I squealed!!!

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xsfqfrjNQo2TjNsbMxS6xwOur first port of call after breakfast was the expo to collect our race packets and the items I had preordered. This part of it was easy enough, leaving some time to explore the merchandise. I may have bought one or two all the things!

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%3Y%tQYkTqiJy4SX%t+UzwFinally, we went to check out the exhibitors but there were very few. I think perhaps I’ve been spoiled by bigger expos so found this a bit disappointing. I did enjoy finding my name on the wall of runners and taking some photos to mark the beginning of the weekend.

+iT8MkbcS3SD7eLI0rV7eA
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76vF2EVqRXqLKRMo61%+tAWe took our things back to the hotel then it was time to hit the parks!

kfyuY8hzSIWEr6PhsWAOZwFirst, we headed into the Studios as I wanted to devote much of the latter part of the day to the main park. In the Studios our priority was to get on the Ratatouille ride since this was new to us and is currently under construction at WDW in Florida. We got a Fastpass but had some time to wait so went shopping then got in the queue for the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. It’s been a while since we’ve done that one since we haven’t been in the Studios in Florida for a while and it was brilliant!

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Hq9MdPDkRiOvd0Tdlh4KrARatatouille was amazing! It was a ride where you needed 3D glasses and were “shrunk” to the size of a rat. Doing something new was fantastic and it was a real highlight of our park day.

FZZpf3HJRRqbKPTbxC1uoQFrom there, we headed into the main Disneyland park. I found it quite confusing as it was similar to the Magic Kingdom in Florida, yet familiar things were in different places so it felt like being in a weird dream. Here, we wanted a Fastpass for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad as I knew it was different to the Florida version. We headed straight there, admiring the seasonal decor on the way.

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fZfsNc8xTKelJTxOamaAPAIn Frontierland, where Big Thunder is located, it looked like being in the movie Coco as there was a Day of the Dead theme.

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7YTlCD78SwK2aJUmw9YuWAWe knew the parks would be busy and didn’t expect to get on loads of rides, hence our priorities (the others were Hyperspace Mountain, which was having a technical issue and Phantom Manor which was closed for refurbishment. Next time!). Given the long queues, we walked around soaking up the atmosphere and trying to get our bearings. We also needed some lunch so, on my sister’s recommendation, chose a place in Discoveryland (which I think of as Tomorrowland) that did burgers. I chose a chicken burger with fries and an ice cream for dessert.

6XAfgOrwQBmwCfiQ2GNi9wThroughout the remainder of our day we managed to get on Pirates of the Caribbean (again, different to the Florida version), used our Fastpass for Big Thunder (which was brilliant!), watched the afternoon parade (Disney parades are the best!), bought souvenirs, took a million photos and found some more food before getting ourselves ready for the fireworks.

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IMG_9383
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UvfmsSsHTWeqSwdO7R4gNQThere was some rain in the area so the actual fireworks were removed from the evening show, but the projections onto the castle (similar to what I saw in Florida last year) were so good that I barely even noticed. It was all set to Disney music, some in the original version and some in French. Pretty sure the words to Let it Go were a bit different in French…

mVG5J5KPQlOlbOoNxd5o5Q
iKJ7PZ4FR2aABdIvSePLIw
KrcfqeOhREuFamriaLD2Pw
WWiUTEmTQNm9SagBcmOX6wWith that, our day came to a close and we headed back to the hotel to get our race things ready and try to get some sleep.

When our alarm went off it felt like the middle of the night…because it pretty much was! We got dressed and headed for breakfast which was laid on from 5am. We were actually given a wristband which meant we could go back for a second breakfast after the run, presumably because what we would eat before a run would be different to what we might prefer to have. We actually didn’t use this because of timings, but it was a great idea and we had been aware of loads of 10k runners coming in for breakfast while we ate the previous morning.

fullsizeoutput_27b1From there, it was final organisation in our room then over to the expo where the start corrals were and the bag drop. It also meant we could wait inside, where there were reasonable toilets, until we had to get into our corral.

I’ll write a more detailed race report to cover everything else, but the short version is I had THE BEST time! It was my slowest ever half marathon by far, but probably my favourite race experience EVER! I think it’s safe to say we’ll be doing this again in future. I’m already mulling over costume ideas…!

sqAvuFYPR6KyXHms0O3DNQPost-race we nipped back to our hotel for a quick freshen up and to drop some things off, then made a whistle-stop visit to the main Disneyland park so we could take some photos with our medals and buy a couple of last-minute souvenirs before leaving.

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52I6N3BlS8mR5tWnFwX+2gThe hotels gave runners a 1pm checkout so we had a quick shower, packed and were ready for the shuttle to the airport at 1:15. Perfect!

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A Beastly “stowaway” in my carry-on bag!

The journey home was much more straightforward and even with a stop for some food, we were home and organised in time to watch the finale of Bodyguard on tv. I even think these cheeky faces might have missed me!

p5WhqWM6T6KaOiIu0aigMwI really truly loved my weekend, I mean what’s not to like about a Run Disney event when you’re a runner who loves Disney? It was perfect! Look our for my race report (which will contain LOADS MORE photos!) to find out more about my experience.

b276uzRLS6q+9FFXqvgcaQWhat’s been your favourite race experience ever?
Have you/would you run a Disney race?

Week In Review – The One Where I Couldn’t Think Of A Title

Ohboyohboyohboy! I’m getting so excited! As this post goes live I’m just a few short days away from my much-anticipated trip to Disneyland Paris for the half marathon weekend. My costume is ready, my list is made and I’m well on my way to being packed already since I’m leaving straight from work on Friday and need to be organised. It’s going to be a whirlwind trip and no doubt will go by in a flash, but I’m sure it’s going to create come amazing memories.

Since I know it’s going to be a busy weekend, I’ve been really trying to strike a balance between continuing to build up my fitness, whilst also prioritising rest. Usually I get up quite early and start my day with a short walk, but this week I’ve skipped that in favour of sleeping a bit longer and have really tried to make my workouts work for me in terms of getting the most I can from a little bit less time:

Monday – Hatha yoga
Tuesday – bike reps @ the gym
Wednesday – short run
ThursdayAshtanga yoga rest
Friday – rest
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – 8 miles

After yet another mad Monday, Hatha yoga was a welcome way to unwind and relax. Our balance was Half Moon, a posture we previously worked on using a wall to support, but this time I tried it unaided and was surprised to actually manage it (although it took a few attempts to work out how my body wanted to move into the posture without falling over!)

On Tuesday I headed to the gym as the bike intervals have been a staple part of my training in recent times and I do think they make a difference to my fitness. This week I used the same work/rest intervals as last time, but added on 2 further reps to add some progression.

When it got to Wednesday I was a little short on time. I knew I wanted to run before orchestra, but also knew that realistically I could only afford about 30 minutes if I wanted to be ready in time. Somehow in my brain this translated to “run really hard” which of course meant I was in danger of arriving home without completing the full 30 minutes (the minimum duration that would give me my Vitality points for the day!) so I had to add on a couple of extra bits as I went. I did feel much better afterwards and it gave me the energy to concentrate through my rehearsal.

3OvPO2WXR4K5fmEiK3tWkgI had originally intended to go to Ashtanga yoga on Thursday, however I ended up shelving that idea as the kittens had spent the day at the vet for their Very Important Operations and since they were just home (and a bit groggy) I wanted to stay with them to make sure they were ok and not messing with their stitches. My poor wee girl looked rather bewildered and her brother, who bounced back remarkably quickly, was so cute as he kept an eye on her and helped her to wash. They really are such an adorable pair (and both were perfectly fine after a good sleep). Once they were settled I did some yoga myself where I could watch them.

I had always intended Friday to be a rest day as I wanted to nip into town after work for some bits and pieces for our trip, most importantly to get some Euros! Once I got home I did a little more yoga before getting organised to head out for some food at the pub down the road.

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We were seen off the premises!

The kitten alarm clock had me up a little earlier than intended on Saturday, however I made good use of the time to tidy up a little before parkrun. It was quite chilly and I actually wore a pair of capris (I’m usually at the extremes – shorts or full leggings and very few “in between” runs) and as I walked from the car to the start area I briefly wished I had some gloves! My intention was to see if I could shave a couple more seconds off my time from last week (24:44) so set off reasonably hard. As the run went on I felt better and better, so much so that I ran a Royal Flush Negative Split! And as I stopped my watch at the finish I was rather surprised to see that I had shaved off more than a couple of seconds to finish in 24:07!! I really don’t know where that sudden return to decent form came from, but I suspect the cooler weather, my recent consistent training and being well rested all contributed. Fingers crossed I can get back to sub-24 before the conditions make that too tricky.

IMG_9136From parkrun I had an appointment to get my hair cut (need to be presentable for my trip next weekend!) then after lunch Steve and I walked down the road to the ice rink. No, we weren’t getting in some sneaky practice for our festive skating, we were headed for the function rooms there as we had tickets for the Gin Festival that was taking place. It was a gathering of lots of Scottish gin producers, many of them small batch/artisan producers, offering the opportunity to sample their wares. My favourites included a hot spiced gin punch, a gin served with a piece of honeycomb in it (as in the sweet treat that we associate with the inside of a Crunchie bar, not the stuff from a bee hive) and the one I bought – a mocha gin. Yum! We actually bumped into loads of people we knew and it was nice to have a chat to people and compare notes on our favourites.

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mNXIC7NOSyedynHHJ8m4VAOnce home it was pizza and a relaxing evening in front of the tv with lots of kitten cuddles. So good!

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DuHvzo+HQoq6Ih+PqD8MQQI hadn’t been sure of the distance I wanted to run on Sunday – after 10 miles last week should I go up to 12 or cut back? After a consultation with Steve, we both decided to run 8 miles and covered similar routes which meant we saw each other while we were out. It was REALLY windy, yet I felt I was running well again and when I compared my run to the similar one I ran a couple of weeks ago, I averaged about 10 seconds per mile faster yet felt comfortable throughout. Clearly this distance was the right decision as I have no ambition for time next weekend and am better served by being well rested and just keeping my running ticking over for a few days.

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IMG_9187After an assortment of Sunday errands, we had another visit from my parents (cue more Sunday cake) since my mum will be looking after the kittens next weekend and needed to go over a few things. It will be weird leaving them, but I know they will be just fine and are perfectly happy with each other. Besides, mum will totally spoil them!

Now just 5 more work days until I get on the plane. Squeeeeee!!!

What is your favourite way to serve gin?
What is your dream event that you long to do?

Week In Review – Seasons of Change

September in Scotland definitely brings with it a change in the air – the mornings are chillier, the nights longer and autumn colours begin to creep across the landscape. I always find it such a shock after the long summer days, but this time of year is one of my favourites for running and I’m so pleased that the changing season has brought with it a change (for the better) in the ankle that has been niggling since July. I’m even starting to sense a return of fitness and form. Here’s how my week went:

Monday – Hatha yoga
Tuesday – bike intervals @ the gym
Wednesday – run
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – rest
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – long run

With almost everything else in my life back on, things feel pretty hectic right now and I’m finding I don’t have much headspace during the week for anything other than work and whatever training I am doing. I think I can accept this so long as I know there are occasions when I can take some time for myself during the week and my Monday evening Hatha class is perfect for this. We start and finish in savasana and the movement during the class is nice and gentle – the ideal Monday yoga practice.

On Tuesdays we have our shorter day at work so this gives me a little more time in the evening and I have been trying to build on this with a short workout at the gym before heading home. After a couple of weeks of 30 seconds on/30 seconds recovery on the bike, this week I increased the work interval to 45 seconds and took just 15 seconds recovery. I have to push a little out of my comfort zone in order to improve my fitness and this is a sequence I’ve done before so I was happy it was achievable.

P3N43p%pQDmXzMYzkXabXAWednesdays right now are quite packed, but once more I managed to fit in a run between school and orchestra.To keep it simple, I stuck to the same loop as last week as I knew I could fit it in and still have enough time to shower and eat before heading out. It felt good and I think my time was fairly comparable to the last time so at least there is some consistency.

ssPSBat6T0CAVB4RPiaWhwAfter missing my Ashtanga class last week thanks to staying at work too long then getting caught in traffic, I made sure to be away in plenty of time to get to the class this time. As it turned out, my teacher had been away the previous week so there were only a couple of people there, so maybe I didn’t miss out too much. Still, it felt good to move through the sequence again and it really helped to reset my head for the end of the working week.

I made Friday a rest day and did a home yoga practice to help me unwind from the week. Poor Steve was suffering with a back issue so it was probably just as well I didn’t want a training session!

Since Steve’s back was still a problem on Saturday, I was off to parkrun by myself. I was feeling good and felt like I ran well so was pleased to find my time back under 25 minutes again (I was in sub-24 form in June but lost some momentum with the ankle issue. It’s good to see the progress I’m making again).

DWZ1x2gGR6WwvdIqRMdhTAWe also had a special guest as part of the UK-wide #teamparkrun event. We were joined by international orienteer and track runner Kris Jones, who happens to hold TWO parkrun course records – one in Swansea where he’s originally from and the other in Dundee where he now lives and trains – and his time for 5k on the track is 13:XX!! He ran out to one of the marshal points and cheered runners on before returning to the start/finish area where he was happy to chat and be photographed. In Steve’s absence I found a stand-in photographer who suggested we do a jumping shot together and our visitor actually agreed – he may need to work on his jumping game though 😂

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O%9dGaxHQ1OREB0HpdLfrQThe remainder of Saturday was pretty chilled as Steve couldn’t really move far, which meant I felt fairly rested for a longer run on Sunday morning. With a couple of half marathons coming up I was keen to hit double digits so headed off for a 10 mile loop. I enjoyed the run and my ankle felt fine, which was good news. Even better, my time was roughly the same as my last 10 miler back in June so my endurance is maybe not too bad after all. Besides, I’m not looking for any pace in my half marathon next weekend so as long as I can comfortably cover the distance I’ll be happy!

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qMr6RRJVSLqsKqM6alO1dAPost-run I had to get the food shopping (by myself thanks to Steve’s dodgy back) and have a bit of a tidy up as my parents were visiting again to spend some more time with the kittens. Given the amount of treats my mum seems to be able to produce form her handbag, they certainly didn’t object! Once they left, we had a quiet evening in front of the tv to relax before the new week began. Phew!

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Watching for their visitors 😹

Did you attend a #teamparkrun event?
How is your training going?